Police detain Black man who was dancing in the street in Alameda
The city of Alameda has pledged an independent investigation after several police officers forced a Black resident to the ground and physically detained him after he was seen dancing in the street.
City Manager Eric Levitt announced the planned inquiry Friday, the same day Alameda officials released body camera footage of the May 23 incident — which also was captured on cellphone video that circulated widely on social media.
“In Alameda, transparency is important, and we believe open lines of communication create trust with our community,” Levitt said in a statement. “Due to concerns regarding the incident, we will be having an independent investigation.”
City spokeswoman Sarah Henry said Wednesday that two officers “are on leave pending the outside investigation.” She said none of the officers involved in the incident have been publicly identified.
Alameda police responded to the 2000 block of Central Avenue at about 7:45 a.m. on May 23 after a woman called to report that a Black person was dancing in the middle of the street.
What happened next was documented in six body camera videos, all of which were released last week.
After getting out of his vehicle and walking over to the man, one officer asks whether everything is OK. The man responds that he lives in the area and is just getting some exercise.
The officer informs him of the call.
“Just want to make sure where you’re at: Do you feel like hurting yourself today?” the officer asks.
“Have a good day, gentlemen,” the man responds to the first officer and another who had just arrived and was standing behind him.
The first officer then tells the man, “At this point, you’re detained, understand?”
After a brief verbal exchange, the man turns toward the center of the street, and the two officers grab his arms and eventually march him to the side of the road.
The man can be heard asking a woman who is not visible on the video to record what is happening.
“I have the right to exercise on my street,” the man tells the officers, demanding that they let him go.
Additional officers arrive, and four of them eventually take the man to the ground and handcuff him.
“I have witnesses all up and down this block. ... I was minding my business,” the man says.
The officers eventually walk the man to a police vehicle and place him in the back.
Henry said the resident, identified as Mali Watkins in the police report, was cited with a single misdemeanor charge of resisting/delaying/obstructing and was released at the scene.
“At this time, I do not know the reasons why the initial officers approached the call the way they did,” Levitt said in his statement. “I am hopeful that an investigation will provide better understanding to that question.”
Get breaking news, investigations, analysis and more signature journalism from the Los Angeles Times in your inbox.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.